Having a background in project management is great when you are faced with the task of planning a new project. However, managing a bid or writing a proposal is fundamentally different from managing a project.
There are two main differences between bid management and project management.
1. a project must deliver
When doing a project you already know what you have to do, by when and how much can it cost. That is called the iron triangle of project management: quality, time and cost. Those are contractual facts. Your goal is to stay in scope, spend available resources and make it in the timeline that is written down in the plan. You can sometimes make exchanges between shorter timeline for more resources, smaller scope for less money to spare, but sometimes not even that. You need to stick to the plan because of dependencies to clients partners or other projects. And if your scope creeps or explodes you will have to look for more money and resources to finalize. Main point about a project is just to push through and deliver in time, scope and quality.
2. no plan, no resources
However, when writing a bid or a project plan you basically have no time, no money and no resources. And your task is to invent how you would spend it if you had it. The work that results from these constraints is at best fast, lean and collaborative – at worst it is slow, complex and you are all alone. To get it right you have to get attention from technical, sales, legal and business experts as well as other managers and senior level sponsors to get comments or approval. And none of them has any intention of doing your job for you. They are always busy, but you need to get their attention in order to succeed. But if you fail, it’s not their fault. What are the top priorities at the moment? Follow that lead and solve the biggest problems in small chunks.
3. COmmunicate more
Typically the expertise needed in planning and executing a project is scattered around the organization. In a networked project consortia between organizations and sometimes in different locations and countries. When you get domain experts collaborating smoothly, it is great cross-disciplinary teamwork. But they are sometimes also negotiating against each other and competing with partner companies for the resources that you have put in your plan. And your job as manager in planning the project is to pull this all together in a very short deadline. This means a lot of communication. The more clearly and timely it happens the better you will progress. And if you make it right, the bid will end up being a contract that your project managers have to deliver. I hope it was not messy all the way till the end, right?